Specific Villas in Roman Britain

  • Created by: Anna
  • Created on: 21-05-13 14:21

Fishbourne Roman villa

  • This is the earliest example of a Roman villa that we study; it was constructed in 90 AD at Fishbourne near Chichester (South) 
  • It had a grand entrance hall, a formal garden, reception rooms, private apartments for guests and relatives as well as baths and smaller courts for staff
  • Being one of the most lavish and monumental villa's in Britain shows the importance and wealth of the person who owned it, there are suggestions that the client king Cogidubnus lived here showing the importance 
  • Chichester was already an established community before the Roman invasion and it would have been likely that they had trading networks established with France and possibly even Italy. This may be part of the reason that Cogibudnus was so quick to embrace the Mediterranean style villa. 
  • The mosaics found at Fishbourne resemble those found in a harbour town of Rome suggesting that Roman craftsmen had constructed them. Some were very similar to those found at Pompeii (black and white geometric patterns) 
  • There would have been military settlement at Chichester because it was so close to the sea and had easy access to Gaul.
  • It had four wings arranged in a square around a central garden and about 100 rooms 
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  • Pliny mentions that in his garden he had box hedging and fruit tree's, both of which were likely to have been present in the garden at Fishbourne 
  • It had a network of underfloor heating 
  • By 100 AD there were new baths added to the east and north wing which suggests that the villa had been split up into seperate units and in the third century a fire destroyed the building
  • It is ironic and strange to think that the most impressive of all the villas in Roman Britain was in ruins by the time of the golden age of Villas. 
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Chedworth Roman Villa

  • Chedworth Villa was constructed near Cirencester in Gloucestershire around the fourth century (developed over time from the 2nd century)
  • It was constructed near a natural spring which was made into a combined water feature and shrine this shows that religion, apart from just Christianity and the Roman deities, were also influential in the lives of villa owners (possibly suggesting it was owned by a native like Fishbourne may have been) 
  • It had three wings with 2 courtyards and is known to be one of the largest villas from the Roman invasion. One courtyard was thought to be for beauty and the other was thought to be used to keep livestock and animals 
  • The mosaic of the seasons would suggest that the villa was associated with farming and working the land therefore needing good weather all year round but this was primarily a villa constructed with the intention to impress and astound the spectators and guests of it 
  • There were two living quarters so, like Fishbourne was in the later years, this villa could have housed two families or more than one generation of a family 
  • Demolished in the 5th century
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North Leigh Roman Villa

  • It was constructed in Gloucestershire near the Fosse Way and developed from the 2nd AD - 4th AD (like Chedworth) 
  • It started as a small property but grew into a larger courtyard style villa, it had a central courtyard and a walled walk way around the outside (due to the colder climate)
  • There was a series of bathrooms, underfloor heating (like Chedworth), water pipes and many mosaics (like Fishbourne and Chedworth)
  • It also had farm buildings which suggests it was not only a villa for entertainment and relaxation but also for practical purposes 
  • It was a big, luxury villa being about 90x90 metres and had 60 rooms - 16 of which had mosaic floors 
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Woodchester Roman Villa

  • This was also built near Cirencester and was constructed over a period of time (2nd-4th century)
  • It is most famous for the significant amount of architectural artefacts found; it contained the largest known mosaic yet found in Roman Britain (15 metres) enclosed in a building.
  • Sculptures, marble and mosaics have all been found here so the owners were clearly exploring architecture as a form of expression and a display of wealth
  • The mosaic depicts Orpheus, animals and his lyre showing that Greek mythology was something that the owners were interested in (it was made from 5 different colours)
  • It had 64 rooms and 13 of which had mosaic floors - it also had an underfloor heating system and a granary 
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Lockleys Roman Villa

  • This was built near St Albans and is the main example for development over time 
  • Originally it started life as two round houses and a farm, it grew into row house in the 1st century, by the second century it had a new corridor and wing attached, in the fourth century another wing was attached so took the formation of a winged corridor villa 
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Hambleden Roman Villa (not on spec)

  • Built near London (near Henley on Thames so had good networking and communication
  • It had the capacity to store massive quantities of corn which suggests it was supplying the military with food as it would have been easily transported both by the sea and by the roads going from London 
  • There were 97 infantile skeletons found buried in the courtyard which shows that it was an intensive farm and the slaves had a very bad quality of life - it could also suggest that this Villa was acting as a brothel hence the high number of killed babies 
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Hemel Hempstead Villa (not on spec)

  • Near London - it started as a farmstead and then grew into a larger villa as a result of the location (near london) 
  • It had a swimming pool as well as a bath house with a considerable number of heated rooms, it too, like Hambledon, also had the ability to store and dry large quantities of corn 
  • In the 5th century though the villa's bath houses and the house were demolished and taken over for animal pens 
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Why did villas change?

  • There was an increased income for villas as the agricultural scene developed - this was already underway before the Roman invasion but probably became more efficient as a result of the Romans
  • Romans bought over new crops and new tools (oats, grapes and iron tools as well as the mould-board plough)
  • They may have become more efficient because more fields were laid out (rectangular not square like the Celts so that more land can be used), swamps were drained and forests were deforested 
  • Below ground grain stores were replaced by granaries showing that they were producing products from their harvest rather than just storing it 
  • There was a developing cosmopolitan culture in Britian; there was an influx of new citizens and trends which bought around inspiration for creating more abstract buildings
  • The inhabitants may have felt more comfortable and secure at the Villas over a period of time and saw it as a perminent residence
  • With a growing trade and transportation system it may have been easier to move materials around the country (e.g. stone)
  • New trades were set up like mosaic schools (found in Cirencester for example)
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Shakenoak Farm

  • This farm was constructed in the first century and is the only known example of an inland fishfarm from Roman Britain
  • Trout were likely to have been bred here and this shows that there was a diversity in the production of foodstuffs
  • The owners lived a lavish lifestyle with sculptures being crafted in local stone, Roman red-ware cups have been found here, baths behind the villa have been excavated and coloured glass that had been imported from Italy show that there was a range of imports coming into the country
  • However in 200 AD, the height of the Roman empire, the villa callopsed and was replaced by a well-built round house. This is extremely surprising but seems to coincide with the decline of Fishbourne palace too. 
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